by P.M. Grand / May 1963
Rilke was the first to see that Rodin can be understood through the details of his work and methods far better than through his grandiose ideas. Of course, the sculptor made ambitious plans-The Gates of Hell are populated by The Thinker, Adam and The Three Shades in the High Romantic style of the Eroica Symphony. But most of Rodin’s vast monumental projects remained incomplete, and some of them are apt to exasperate, where they do not actually disappoint. Rodin trusted the great traditional “subjects,” the noble categories and “missions” of High Art. A man of the people, he never questioned the popular belief in the artist’s responsibility to history nor his rather naïve faith in messages. He was comforted by these sentimental theories in the long period of material difficulty at the beginning of his career. When he became a success—and wore the bearded face of Inspired Genius—fame lent confirmation to his candid faith, and he became the rather shallow priest of a neo-paganism for which the handsome Nijinsky supplied the apparitions of a living god. Rodin was self-educated; a few trips abroad and contacts with Italian and Classic works gave him an enthusiasm which was more intuitive than informed. In fact, Rodin’s utterances were never far from the stereotypes of his time, and, paradoxically, the artist finished his career as a
rich bourgeois, with his palace in Paris, country houses, collections, mistresses, a cellar-full of excellent burgundies. His “power” was worldly, but, luckily, he was always temperamentally attracted to what he thought was the intellectual and metaphysical life.
— From “Rodin: Genius with giblets,” by P.M. Grand, May 1963
Leave a Reply.